Basketball

Chris Holtmann Previews Top 5 Matchup Against Michigan

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann met virtually with reporters on Friday to preview Sunday’s matchup against No. 3 Michigan. The game is scheduled for a 1:00 pm tip on Sunday in Value City Arena. The game will air on CBS.

— This Michigan team is a national title contender. They are deep with veterans and very good young talent. Retaining Franz Wagner was huge for them. They play smart and composed and tough, much like head coach Juwan Howard did as a player.

— The Buckeyes need to get right physically, which has been the focus today along with preparing for Michigan.

— Seth Towns is going to be okay. They’ll know more tomorrow. He’s banged up. Kyle Young will be okay but will need some time off between now and Sunday.

— While Michigan reflects how their coach played, Holtmann hopes the Buckeyes reflect the way he played as a player. The team has embraced the style of play and they have great belief in what they’re doing, just like Michigan does.

— Michigan has two big guys who play well together. They are an unselfish team and that’s the thread with every elite team right now. Michigan has a ton of weapons. They have size and length in the paint. Their wings Wagner and Livers are on draft boards. They present challenges because of their versatility.

— He hasn’t yet completely finished his viewing of Michigan. He hasn’t seen a drop off from when they were playing earlier before their COVID pause.

— EJ Liddell is playing with great confidence right now and he’s such a difficult matchup. He needs to get better on ball screen defensively, but he’s in rhythm offensively. They always envisioned him as a matchup nightmare, they just didn’t think it would happen this quickly.

— They have to do everything properly before Sunday. Sleeping, hydrating, nutrition, stretch recovery after workouts, extra conditioning for guys who haven’t been playing as much. “We need to have a good cleanup film session. And then we’ve got to go to bed.”

— He recognizes what the Michigan rivalry is. It’s across every sport at Ohio State. “I recognize the importance of that to our fan base.” The best way to honor it is to be competitive in it. Michigan has a tremendous program and have for a number of years now. “We’ve got great respect for them. We’re going to need to play our very best. I’m excited about this because we’ve got a group that embraces the idea of playing against the very best.”

— He has missed the fact that the fans can’t attend games like this. “I hate it that our fans can’t be in the building and I hate it for our players.”

— Musa Jallow has been great. He needs to continue to lead the way defensively, and his cutting offensively was tremendous.

— Michigan has only lost once in league play and has blown out a lot of teams. They blew out Purdue right after Ohio State got beat by Purdue.

— You love to learn about your team and this is going to be one of those games.

— This is a February game that means a lot and will have a lot of eyes on it. This can help recruiting.

— It is a very tough turnaround between a Thursday night game and a Sunday afternoon game. It’s a quick turnaround.

— Michigan is an elite defensive team. They are phenomenal defensively. Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said Michigan is the best defensive team he’s seen in the Big Ten in five years.

— Is there a homecourt advantage for Sunday’s game? “There’s nothing I’d like more, outside of world peace…” than to have fans in the seats. It’s a minimal homecourt advantage this year. “There’s not much to it.”

— Having 7-8 guys who can score but aren’t maybe reliable every night can help you over the course of the season, but that’s maybe not the best way to approach the NCAA Tournament where you’d prefer to have a core group where you know the points are coming from each game. But this team right now has a number of different players who can score and so they’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing because it’s been working.